Mani Diba has been personally affected by Donald Trump's travel ban. The Nijmegen-based PhD candidate, originally from Iran, planned to travel to the United States for a collaboration with the University of Maryland, but is no longer allowed to enter the country. 'They treat me like a criminal.'
Mani Diba planned to visit the University of Maryland in April, but has been forced to cancel his trip. Diba, a PhD candidate from Iran, is now on President Trump’s ‘unwanted’ list. Like people from six other Muslim-majority countries, Diba is banned from entering the United States.
‘Our department works with the University of Maryland’, explains the Dentistry student. ‘We develop biomaterials and had planned to work with bioprints in the United States.’
Brain researcher Roshan Cools and her colleagues made the quick decision to move a cognition symposium originally planned in the United States to Nijmegen instead. Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, was set to host a symposium for seventy researchers in September. Radboud University was scheduled to host the event in 2018, but the roles were reversed in light of recent events. According to Cools, it is unfair and unethical to exclude participants based on their nationality. “We want to make a statement.” More than five thousand scholars have signed a global petition to boycott international conferences in the US in solidarity with students and scholars who have been negatively affected by President Trump’s travel ban.
Diba worked in the United States in 2014 and 2015, at Harvard (and other institutions). He had planned to pursue a postdoc in the United States after completing his PhD, but with Trump waving the sceptre, this too is in jeopardy.
‘I don’t understand the travel ban at all’, says a clearly indignant Diba. ‘Most Iranians in the US are highly educated. No Iranian has ever committed a terrorist attack on American soil. The department where I work has twenty-five PhD candidates. Twenty-four of them can enter the country; I’m the only one who can’t. I feel discriminated against. They treat me like a criminal. But what did I do?’
According to Diba, the irony is that the American government is now taking a similar stance as the regimes it claims to denounce. ‘It’s very disappointing.’
Diba explains that he’s visited the US several times in recent years, as a tourist or to visit relatives. Many Iranians emigrated to the United States shortly before the Iranian Revolution of 1979. ‘I always felt welcome there. One of my best friends is American.’
Mani Diba can’t think of a single positive consequence of the travel ban. This applies equally to the Iranian community, the American community, and the scientific community. ‘The only thing it will do is make people mad. And the only thing I can do is show how ridiculous I find it’, says Diba.
Radboud University has condemned the executive order issued by President Trump. Yesterday, it joined a specific call from the European University Association (EUA) to revoke the American travel ban.